I used to love everything about aviation when I was a kid. My favorite hobby was watching flying Airplanes, my favorite song was ‘Airplanes by Eminem and B.O.B’, my favorite cartoon serial was ‘TaleSpin’. When someone used to ask me what I want to become when I grow up, my constant answer used to be ‘A pilot’, but this is all past. Now I hate everything about aviation. My hatred for aviation have some genuine reasons.
First, as a middle-class family boy, I never got a chance to fly in Airplane and all my dreams shattered. Second, Bollywood movies have over-hyped the airports. The people on Airports, who are there to actually travel are 25 percent of what we see on the airports. Rest 50 percent are the relatives who are there to bid goodbyes. Ohh, you are thinking about the rest 25 percent, right? It’s the staff and middle-class dreaming relative kids of the staff. Well, maybe my hatred is exaggerated and what you can expect from a short movie director trying to shoot a very important part of a movie for the last fifteen days. This is the problem with low budget movie makers like me, who have to shoot at real locations. Yeah, the second reason why I hate aviation is me only.
Well my movie name was ‘The Strange Airport’ and I was sure it will be million views hit. Though, it was very frustrating as I wanted to shoot at this strange sandwich store where hardly any people go to. Perfect place for the climax and I have already taken the permission, but store guy has warned me that I would have to finish the shooting before 3:00 PM. Reason being, one of their customers or rather say their only customer who have never missed even a single day to visit the store since its inception. I tried negotiating with store manager, but he completely denied. So, I decided, that I would talk to this person on my own. I have already taken the challenge.
I was waiting at the sandwich store and was constantly looking at the watch. It was 02:55PM when a man in his 60s entered the store. He was wearing a proper 3-piece suit and sat on the corner table. With in no time, the attendant greeted him with two sandwiches in two different plates. I was constantly looking at him, but I don’t think he even noticed my presence in that strange sandwich store. I thought some other person would be joining him for the second sandwich but then he started eating his one. The attendant came again and took the empty plate and a plate with the sandwich intact with him and the 500Rs note with him. With in no time, he also moved out of the coffee store. No talks, no greets, no signs and yet such fluency. I asked the manager about the whole situation and he obviously denied talking about it. Everything was very strange for me.
Now you know why I have written Day 1 before the last paragraph. I could not even confront him the other day. This time I decided to do my research first. I tried talking to other regular staff near the sandwich store. According to one of them, he started working three years back and have never seen that man missing a single for the last 3 years. I again waited in the store and this time I wanted to confront him. Same sequence happened. The man came, with a different 3-piece suit on this time, sat on the same corner seat, not ordered anything, yet the attendant served him with same order he had the other day, and again he ate his portion and the portion on the other plate was remained untouched. I wanted to make the contact, but he started moving out of the door. This time, I chased him.
‘Sir’, I shouted. I am a young man, with a strong voice to stop anyone, but this man didn’t stop. I again shouted, ‘Sir, I am talking to you. Can you stop?’. I was ignored. I chased him down to the parking lot where he sat in his Mercedes and left. A lot of questions were haunting.
Completing movie was a great concern, but somehow this has become a greater concern. Consciously, I was looking for the content also. I was more interested in the story of the stranger I found on the Airport than my movie ‘The Strange Airport’. I knew, what I had to do next and I did the same. This time, I sat on his favorite corner seat. I wanted to see, what would he do next. I was desperately waiting for the man and he was punctual. He entered the store at 3:00PM. A different 3-piece suit. He was moving towards his favorite corner table but then he noticed me sitting there smiling at him. I wanted the reaction, but then he did what I was not expecting. He sat on the table near the one I was sitting. Everything was same, except one thing. This time he was constantly looking at me.
‘Sir, do you want to sit here?’, I said, looking at him and he didn’t utter any word. He kept on looking at me.
‘Sir, I am talking to you. Do you want to sit here?’, I was getting ignored badly. This time, I made my move before he got out of the store. I moved to his table and I could clearly see that I have made him uncomfortable.
‘Sir, why don’t you reply? I am talking to you. I don’t want to disturb you but then I have few questions for you. I wanted to shoot a movie sequence here in this store, but then I found that this sandwich store which serves the worst sandwiches in the world has a constant visitor in the form of you, who have never missed the single day since the sandwich store is opened. I don’t want to shoot here now, but I want to know, why you come here daily? Why you always sit on the corner table? Why you always order two sandwiches and never eaten both? Why you always wear a 3-piece suit? And most importantly why don’t you answer my questions?’, I asked it all. I knew, he wont reply and I was right. He moved out of the sandwich store without replying anything. I was sad this time.
I lost all my interest in making that movie and I want to do the wrap-up. I decided, I will not shoot any further. The next day would be the last day of me shooting at the airport.
I came with a heavy heart to the airport. Everyday, the crowd was different, but it all looked similar. I asked my partner to keep everything ready.
‘We have to finish it before 3:00 PM, Rakesh’, I told him.
‘Long story. Even I don’t know. No more questions. Let’s ready the setup, right?’, I clapped and shouted.
We started at 10:30AM and I was constantly looking at the watch on my hand. Within no time, the watch reflected 2:30PM. I asked my guys to wrap-up fast, but they didn’t know what I knew. They were slow. This time, I don’t want to face the old man.
3:00 PM and still my team was collecting the equipment. I was constantly looking at the store gate. A man in his 30s came to me.
‘Are you the Ronny, who is trying to shoot a movie here?’, he asked.
‘Yes, why are you asking?’
‘This is for you?’, he handed over me a piece of paper.
Yes, I know your name. Ha ha, Gottcha? You are a very nice kid. I can understand, how difficult to shoot a movie on Airport, and you are doing a good job. I hope one day you become a famous Bollywood or maybe Hollywood movie director. Airports are overhyped. I hate coming to Airports. Then why you see me daily at the Airport? Ha ha.
This Airport came afterwards, I came here first. With the love of my life, Ahaana. It was 1961, and India was not that advanced to accept you meeting your girlfriend. I used to walk in the entire city to find places where I can sit with Ahaana and talk about life and then I found this place. A barren no man’s land. I was waiting for and she came exactly at 2:30PM with my favorite sandwich. She served me in the steel plate she brought along with her’
“This is the perfect place? I think we should meet daily here.”, she said to me in excitement.
“I will come daily to meet you here”, I reciprocated with the same energy. We met at the same place where the corner table is, but we never knew, fate has decided something else for us. While returning, her bus met with an accident and two people died. She was one of them. I came the next day also, but she wasn’t there but I felt her talking to me, eating sandwich with me. Then they started building Airport. It created some issues. For a few days, I couldn’t meet her, but I considered as she has gone for some holidays. If I would have the money, I would have bought the whole land. But I did my part. I started the sandwich store there. The employees serve their owner and they don’t know about it. Isn’t it cool?
And by the way, don’t call the sandwich bad. I felt bad.
Also, I have seen your movies on youtube. You are doing excellent job. Otherwise, how would you get the permission? Please don’t make it your next movie. Although, I know you will. Ha ha.
Stranger on Airport”